Accompanied by yours truly, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, who is also chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) and Task Force Executive Director, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, the families went to see the President to personally seek his help in their long quest for justice against the powerful members of the Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao.
The meeting was cordial, candid and impassioned.
The President gave specific instructions to Aguirre, the PTFoMS and the state prosecutors handling the case who were present, to see to it that a conviction would be handed down to the principal accused the soonest time possible.
He likewise instructed Special Assistant to the President, Secretary Christopher “Bong” Go, to arrange employment, scholarships and financial assistance to the families.
In return, the families expressed their profound gratitude to the president, who responded by saying that he is just fulfilling his duty as president to meet the ends of justice.
President Duterte, a former prosecutor himself, even shared his thoughts on the dynamics and intricacies of the justice system, noting that even the right of the accused to be heard is sacred under our democratic rules. Nevertheless, he expressed optimism that the strength of the case against them— 188 respondents in all— will eventually lead to a verdict favorable to the victims.
It will be recalled that the President, who was still Davao City mayor at that time, was among the first to extend help to the beleaguered families by providing the helicopter that found the site of the Maguindanao massacre.
Rest assured that us in the government, through PTFoMS, the DOJ and other stakeholders, will work without letup in ensuring justice for all victims of violence against members of the working press. We are committed to upholding the President’s promise that his government will never condone violence and repression of media.